When we first read Allan Monga’s story in the news and saw footage of him reciting W.E.B. Du Bois’ poem, “The Smoke King”, we knew wanted to approach Allan in hopes of creating a piece highlighting his talents as a poetry reciter.
Allan was forced to flee his home country of Zambia as a high-schooler and was uprooted to Portland, Maine, where he would go on to seek asylum. Soon after arriving in the States, he discovered his passion for poetry and after winning a state-wide poetry recital contest, was banned from competing in the national contest due to his citizenship status.
He successfully petitioned the courts to compete as a noncitizen in the national championships in Washing, DC. Even though he did not win the contest, as Allan said, “I am not the only kid who’s an immigrant…I wanted to create a way that kind of opened the door for everyone.”
In the wake of Allan’s efforts, The National Endowment for the Arts would go on to eliminate the rule blocking non-citizens from competing in the contest.